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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  May 8, 2011 4:30am-5:00am EDT

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from the campus of usc, the beautiful campus of usc. we are going to move from american history to foreign policy and talk about the new best-selling book and this is the first book for you. was what is it like to be on the best-seller list of the book? >> guest: it's nice to hear people react and people are connecting to it and i'm so
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incredibly grateful. >> it's a story about afghanistan but it's about one woman and one family in afghanistan so it really personalizes some of the challenges of that country. it's called the dressmakers of speed and tells the story of >> guest: it tells the story of a young woman who is supposed to be a teacher and ended up becoming an entrepreneur because there were so tough on so many people and she was left as the head of a family with five brothers and sisters counting on her and she became an entrepreneur and a dressmakers because there was nothing else women were to able to do. >> host: the interesting thing is she had never sewn before and became a successful dressmaker. >> guest: in the course of spending years going back and forth in afghanistan writing the book which i really think celebrates the unsung heroines whose stories are never told during the war. what i learned is that she realized pretty quickly on that she was actually sort of lousy seamstress but she was a really
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good businesswoman, and the seamstresses kept coming to her house, the young and girls who knew the families were counting on them the same way hers was and she was good at the marketing, the business planning, keeping track, paying people and that is what she loved and she became an entrepreneur because of those years. >> host: how many women did she employees and does she continue to work today? >> guest: she had about 100 women in her neighborhood all of whom would come, some of them would sew at her house, which her living room became this factory that was also a community center, the younger girls would come over and do what they would have done in school if they could have gone. they would talk about their lessons and swap jokes and listen to music and talk about leonardo dicaprio, all of these things come and that experience taught her that she didn't want to go back to be a professor which is what she was going to do at the beginning and she is now on her third visit. she's a business consultant that
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teaches entrepreneurship skills all across afghanistan. >> host: so this is a book about afghanistan and about women's experience in the days of the taliban, and of course under u.s. policy of our engagement there. and it's a chance to really understand how our policy is playing out through the eyes of this one story, the dressmaker, khair kahn and we would like to get your calls for this is the process of making this interactive see you all for your comment by phone order. let me give you the telephone numbers. he strolled the and -- eastern and central time zone is 202-585-3885. if you live in a mountain or how many times did you travel to afghanistan? >> guest: seven times since 2005. i spent about one third of 2008 and one-third of 2009 and a big chunk of 2009 and last year i was there for the july for the kabul conference and i was there in december about seven months
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pregnant working on maternal health stories. >> host: that wasn't a great way to engage with the women because of common experience. now your career as a political television producer for abc. how did you make the transition from that to writing this book? >> guest: very carefully. [laughter] i left abc, and i left abc. you've had a lot of my former boss is on and i know your colleagues at c-span since i was watching, and i left because i knew that there were so many stories i wanted to do that i wouldn't get to do the way the news places were going, and i really care that economic development stories and under told stories, and the stories of the women in war or just almost never told. if i save war story you think about the west which are all the incredible books but the lead out so many people. and these women are the ones who make sure there's a community to go back to when the war is over. >> host: and is camilla her real name? were you able to tell the
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details without endangering her? >> guest: it's a great question and i kept asking her about it. the truth is when you read the book these girls did everything they could to stay within the taliban rule. they never worked with men or talked with men, they were the burba on the street. they did everything they could to find opportunities within the rules and to take care of people all around their community. so when i asked hershel to use your real name she said of course i'm an entrepreneur and i want people to know how much work i did on behalf of my community and i worked a very hard to stay within the rules and i wanted to know my business now because all entrepreneurs she's very self promoting any smart and savvy way. >> host: in a nut shell, to entice people to read the book, but explain how much her life changed before and after the television to give us a sense of what transition was like for the women. >> guest: it was dramatic because these young women in this book were just like the young women that so many of us know and our families. they went to school, they went to universities, they have plans for working in the future and all of a sudden overnight, that
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was the ending. none of that was possible because the taliban rules said women, any woman who was a teacher could no longer go to work so all of that was over. and with these girls did was to find out the opportunity to remain calm and the did the one thing they still could and they became the entrepreneurs. >> host: another way you can connect with us is on twitter if you get on we are at book tv and you can send a message and we will work it into the discussion. let's listen to a call from arlington, virginia. you are on the air, go ahead. >> caller: okay. i was wondering what do you think will happen to these women and other women in afghanistan to have become their own business or have gone out on their own with the u.s. withdraw and whatever government takes over, it may be allies with the taliban and the current government seems to be putting out even before we leave. so i'm wondering what you think will happen to these women once
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the u.s. leaves and things go back to the normal semi chaotic situation in afghanistan. >> guest: i think it's an excellent question. thank you for that. what i hear when i talk to the women, many of whom are not in this book and some of whom are, is that the real fear -- do what these things desperately and they are not at all opposed to negotiating with afghan brothers, as they call them and as president karzai calls them. but but they are concerned about is rights will be the fodder for negotiation. and really all they are asking for is the right to go to work and the right to go to school, which right now the afton constitution gives them. and i think it's of to the international community to see whether women will have a real sea to the table in the discussions that are under way now way that will continue to percolate as 2011 becomes 2012 to 2013 and the withdrawal happens. and i think it is, you know, something the american public can do, tell the lawmakers who want to make sure women have a seat at the table.
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>> host: when you talk to the women do they understand and appreciate what the western allies, the presence is all about? >> guest: they understand it very personally because it's shaping their daily lives, and i think what you see so much -- amine i spent time with girls, high school principals, alterman norris, and what you see is they have taken the openings of the international community's presence to contribute as much as they can for as many as they can. and i think all they are asking for -- they don't want the international community to be there forever, and desert understand that there's a finite time the world will be in the country. what they want is just to be able to contribute to the future of their country and that's really all they are asking for. >> host: next call is from what rich new jersey. go ahead, please. >> caller: yes, hello. my name is daniel fernandez and i am an anthropologist from sri lanka and unfortunately i haven't gotten the chance to read your book and by so grateful that you have written
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about these normal people. one of the questions that i have -- i definitely am going to go and buy your book just so that i can read and understand it -- one of the questions that i have is for the afghan people the have gone through so much trouble with the russians being there and all the international stuff that happened and now with the united states being there. so how do ordinary people react to the presence of the united states and what is going on with karzai being against this and so forth? do the understand that we are really there to help them, or is there any kind of hostility about these other things happening? thank you very much, once again, for writing about these ordinary people who are the heroes and heroines of the world. thank you so much again.
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>> guest: thank you. another excellent question which is why i love c-span. i think that what fascinates me not told and are not in the headlines and are not men with guns and their stories are so often not told. and in afghanistan if i see what you think of when i see afghanistan people think of bombing, kidnapping, not usually carry wins and entrepreneurs and regular families who are just like families here, doing the best they can everyday to make something better for the sake of their children. and i think, you know, women in the stories are almost never told when it comes to the war and that's why i thought this matter. in terms of your question about what the impression is about the international community's presence, i think it depends on where you live. a lot of women all over the country, and i have spoken to, are very grateful for the fact that the girls can go to school, that they can work. but there's no question that these campaigns take real tolls on real people's lives, and when
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a bombing ends up taking your child as a casualty you can understand why your view of the international presence is less benign, and i think it does tend to become dependent or proximity to that. the when i speak to -- the previous questions that we don't want the world here forever we just want to be a to make a gain and server were country and use the openings with the international sleeve we can be a part of making sure feast would get worse. >> host: explain what part of the country she lives in. >> guest: her family is in the north of kabul and it is a suburb that is a good home and by traffic it's about 30 minutes but by driving just a couple miles from downtown kabul. >> host: and has -- i asked the question earlier whether or not you could use her name, but more people watching her association with you and did that put her in any danger at all? >> guest: there were a lot of young women in this book i spent time with of never talked about what the taliban years were like
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for them and i went through great pain to make sure that i did everything i could not to put anyone at rest. i wore black pants, black t-shirts, headscarf, no makeup and a jacket from the islamic clothing store, and i think i was actually incredibly disappointing for many young woman because if they said an american woman journalist was going to interview you they thought pamela anderson was going to shove, not as one young woman said to me a sort of conversion of ourselves. but it was done on purpose. >> host: a speed version of yourself. [laughter] >> guest: which is true and it was done on purpose. and you know, really and truly this is just a snapshot of what these young women's lives were like. this isn't a book that takes a political stand in any extent of the word because it was just to show even an incredibly difficult times for the women they manage to find a way and not just for themselves but for so many other people in their neighborhood and that is why i think that they were willing to talk to me is because as i said
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i just want to know what your daily life was like because so few people know it and have a picture of the younger girls who are breadwinners and they aren't even supposed to be on the streets. >> host: ontario, oregon is the next caller. good afternoon. >> caller: thank you. i'm really interested in two things and i would like, susan, not to wiggle the book. we often don't get the title. so, the question now is i watch the earlier programs about the kabul beauty school and i wonder if you had any connections of that at all while you were there? >> guest: >> host: and do you have a second question? >> caller: yes. most of the time in the kabul beauty school program, she talked about the importance of the very fancy dresses for the weddings. is that what most of these ladies are learning to do is to make a very fancy things for weddings?
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>> host: thanks for the question. >> guest: thank you very much. two things, no, i did not know those. this story, the difference i think is this took place during that 11 years when there were not foreigners in afghanistan for the most part. this really is about the young girls managed to do for themselves when no one was paying attention and almost every bit the have forgotten. there's a couple interesting scenes about wedding dresses in the book. i wont give them away too much, but when things are an incredibly important part of the afghan life and all that was true during the taliban years as it is now. but the address is now are much fancier than they were then and, you know, the reason why these girls had a dress making business that could stay in business during the taliban years is because so many people that have money and means have left afghanistan and certainly left kabul, so the market for the very sort of locally made, made in your living room kind of stuff that wasn't quite as fancy
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or as so much that it's popular now is because that's the market opportunity that these girls knew. >> host: excuse me. next is a call from oakland, new jersey. oakland, you are on the air. >> caller: i wanted to ask gayle whether or not the work that cabelas is doing now will influence of the other women, muslim women in other countries. >> guest: i think that is an excellent point because the reason why -- and i talk about this in the introduction to the book -- when i met her i was working on a financial times piece about women entrepreneurs, and the first thing she said to me is money is power for women, and the earning an income earns respect. and that that's why she thought that entrepreneurship was so powerful for both men and women was because it changes people's lives overnight, and women have more of a role to make sure that girls and boys get educated when they have money coming into the
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house. so, i mean, she really does believe that the entrepreneurship is the answer to so many of the country's issues and that is up to afghan's including afghans like herself to make sure that men and women are able to start businesses that provide jobs and create an come in the country that is clearly economically struggling. >> host: life from the "los angeles times" festival of the book. we are talking about a new book of a particular group of women and one in particular, the dressmaker of khair kahn with gayle lemmon the author. and as a question by twittered. how did you gain their trust? did you worry -- did they worry how you were going to write their story? >> guest: i love this question because it means so much to me personally. i worked very hard for years to keep coming back and to explain to them that i have enormous respect for their families and for the work that they had done during those years and that always wanted to do is create a snapshot of that.
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it was to be just a documentary in some ways but in the book. and i think in a place like afghanistan as one of your callers said people have been through so much and they've seen so much and they don't trust easily as well the shouldn't, he gives up to you as a journalist to go back and go back and through the stories you right along the way and the stories you tell and the trust you earn by showing up i learned okay a tiny bit of pashtu but it's a lot harder for me and it proves to then you care very much about telling their story in an honest way. it's not spectacular but it's a decent and it honors the work that these young women did. >> host: a third question is how did you find the story? you obviously have lots of different opportunities. how did you do this particular one? >> guest: talk about this in the introduction to the book because it was a sort of eureka moment reporting. i was in the middle of writing the financial times story about
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women entrepreneurs and afghanistan and i was writing the case for the harvard business school and some of them were really interesting but then i met this young woman who was telling me during passionately about her third business and why entrepreneur ship was the answer for so many of the afghanistan clothes and i said will barely 30 and i know you're not 30 so how do you know that much about this? she looked at me as if it were so obvious and sidley tikrit business of the taliban that support of all these women in my neighborhood of and i was supposed to be a professor but was those years that may be an entrepreneur because i learned about business because my family was counting on me and that is i thought what a story that stands for so many of us. >> host: colorado is next. good afternoon. colorado, are you there? okay. let's move on to georgia, please. are you on the air? georgia, go ahead, please.
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>> caller: first of all i want to thank you for writing the book. i was so angry when i heard that americans just to dismiss women, that we couldn't do anything when they were asked about it in iraq, and when i look at iran, those women could be sitting down right down in the mall and just fit right in. and it makes me wonder in afghanistan if they were left to their own devices how much to the present relationship they are forced to have with men, the subservient relationship? >> guest: i think afghanistan is a family centered culture for both men and women, and i don't hear a lot of resentment. i hear the wind to what women do all around the world which is get on with it. people are counting on them. the work needs to be done. and the do it. they do it because no one else
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is going to oftentimes and because they know that they can and they know that their and i think that is what also drove me to the story over and over again is that it was so universal. almost everyone has an aunt, mother, grandmother that sacrifice for them and taking risks against very different backdrops, and for me this work is a celebration of the work women do all the time with almost no one noticing and it's also a war story that shows a different side of conflict. >> host: top story of dr. marion, please. >> guest: and glad you asked that because dr. marion was one of the most compelling people i had ever met in any country anywhere. she is a woman doctor who practiced medicine all throughout the taliban years and the have seen so many educated women left and she didn't. and she's a major character in the dressmaker because she runs the clinic for the women in the afternoon after she works at the hospital in the morning and she
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runs this clinic for women all around the neighborhood. and one time i asked her why in the world she had stayed in the time when almost everyone she had left. she said because it's my country and i will not be kicked out. and by the way, if i had left during the taliban years who would have practiced medicine on women because later on one of the tel dan ruled that women could not be male doctors. only women doctors can treat women and if they all were gone who was going to give the women medical care so she's a strong trippi triet as i have ever met. >> host: virginia, go ahead, please. >> guest: >> caller: how are they doing the market analysis? is extracted the community or other certain similar ways it's been done here in this country? >> guest: this is a fun business question. what's interesting about taliban
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years is the market opportunity was created because the sort of close the country off from the rest of the world and that is what created the opening for the dresses that were homemade and most people have always bought imported dresses and was because all the people use to buy the fancy stuff or not there anymore that the local market existed. nowadays there are firms that help afghan men and women, little bit and deliver it analyze market opportunities and think about what is the business of that i should go into with the idea that i have and that is something they spend a lot of time working on. >> host: can you describe the quality-of-life for the women that you observe? >> guest: it's a tough question only because they are so grin and bear it that you very rarely hear people complain and i think they are so energized by the ability to make a difference for the family.
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and these women love the work they do. and her sister who is a character in the book is now at university working with her to help in her business. she just got back into the dressmaking because in the interviews she remembered how much fun she had making dresses that she started doing that again and she is the mother of four. >> host: but she's permitted to go to universities. >> guest: yes, and these are women who because when the minister the positive difference women earning an income can make this a lot of men in this book - to our incredibly supportive. the worry for the safety of the women in their family. but when they see the benefits that they are being out and working can make, they are incredibly supportive, and that is not unique to the people in this book. when you spend time in rwanda, afghanistan, places like that, many see the benefits of not having to support 12, 14 family members on their own. >> host: birth control is nonexistent? >> guest: actually i have done
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some stories for the christian science monitor and that accounts of foreign relations looking at this and a lot of women are asking for it, and a lot of them have not been involved in telling communities it really is okay because it's about women's lives and women's health. it's about family economics but it's really about women's lives and women's health in their view and so you do start to see a lot of people moving in that direction. >> host: manhattan, kansas. we have about five minutes left. manhattan, you are on the air. >> caller: hello. i'm curious to know what your assessment is of the unlikelihood, i will put it that way, of centralized government for a country where things are so strong the organized by tribes. whether the kahn, is the feeling of the tribe to tribe and getting at least closer so that
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there can be more to detente and so forth that they can have agreements among the sections of the country without necessarily having to live under so to speak? >> guest: the central government in afghanistan matters but people get on with their lives sort of no matter what as people do all around the world. and i think it has been tough with the karzai government because a lot of people fled the government presents as many challenges as these offers solutions and so i think what you see with entrepreneur is particularly like the women in this book is i'm going to keep doing what i do because my family needs me, and eventually i will become part of a group that goes and advocates for better government adel local level which isn't so much a problem but it's a national level where it's much more of a challenge. >> host: you're going to get another try at this call from california. we missed you earlier.
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you are on the air now. >> caller: yes. i'm interested in the influence of fred martin said central asia -- >> host: i'm glad you asked the question because i wanted to point out the audience greg martin's and provides the jacket for your book and since it's been published the full 60 minutes controversy so what is his influence as the call wants to know and what are your thoughts on the controversy? >> guest: his had always been not in the cities and this takes place in kabul so i think that his influence in terms of afghans the life that over the years especially at the time spent in kabul was less because that isn't where the central asia institute ever operated. it's where they are mostly. i can get is an incredibly sad turn of events. i was as surprised as anybody else and i think that what is so important as people realize that the issue of the girls' education is so much more
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important than the individuals whoever it is, whenever the storyteller is because there are girls in the story with kidnapping and potential acid attacks just for the opportunity to go to school and i think that is the biggest hurdle is keeping most people will never meet those young women fighting every day to go to class. >> host: much has been recovered in the future of afghanistan. as we close out here, what is the one take away that you want people to have about the country's based on your experience in this book? >> guest: what most people want and afghanistan is what most people want in this country, the ability to send their kids to school, the ability to feed their families, and the ability to make sure that the next generation has a better shot the future that's peaceful and that is what i hear over and over and i could because the coverage shapes so
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much of what we know about afghanistan a lot of people won't ever meet those people and i hope they get to know some of these unsung heroines to be posed to you had such a success are you already thinking and not the second book? >> guest: ibm because it is sort of mission driven if you've gotten people to pay attention to the women's stories and not so much soft when i think the work the women do is very hard. i want to go to liberia and i met this really compelling entrepreneur who has a very dramatic story and is now running a pretty fascinating business there. >> host: thanks for being with us. again, the dressmaker khair kahn is gayle a lemmon's first book and you can find it easily weather on line as an ebook or in your local


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